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Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics Paperback – January, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486425045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486425047
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,498,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It was R.H Blyth's belief that "all that is good in European literature and culture is simply and solely that which is in accordance with the Spirit of Zen." He thereafter applied himself to the task of searching the writings of the East and the West in an attempt to discover that Spirit. This book embraces the classical literature of China and Japan and the whole extent of English literature, with numerous quotations not only from English but also from French, German, Italian and Spanish writing. R.H. Blyth was born in London in 1898 and studied English Literature at London university. He travelled extensively in the East before moving first to Korea and then Japan and teaching English at several universities. He eventually became the English tutor to the Crown Prince (the present Emperor)of Japan. He studied Zen Buddhism under Kayama Taigi Roshi. He was interred during the war years and it was during this internment that he wrote his first book, Zen in English Literature. He went on to write numerous other books on Zen,Haiku, Senryu and Humour. Outstanding among his works are Zen and Zen Classics vols. 1-5. Haiku vols.1-4 and A History of Haiku vols.1-2. During his lifetime (he died in 1964) his writing was considered to be controversial by many Zen scholars but he was supported by Taisetz Suzuki. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Zen or Haiku or indeed English Literature. His writing is exceptionally fluent and easy to understand.Read more ›
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL BAUDRIER on March 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With a personal library of some three thousand books, I have found Blyth's Zen in English Literature & Oriental Classics the most valuable, the most inspiring, and the most revealing. Blyth declares religion to be poetry, and poetry to be religion. But that statement is, like all, inadequate. Others have praised this book highly. As have I. Here I only want to say again: The publisher (or whoever holds the copyright) should do the world a favor by making this book available---along with Blyth's other Zen writings. I want to buy copies and give them to friends, and I would never lend the one copy I have. Also, I hope somebody is going to write and publish a biography of Reginald H Blyth, because I believe his history, writings, thoughts, and teachings are of worldwide import. Not all may agree, because Blyth told it as it is ....
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By the wizard of uz on May 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Few books are 'cult classics', especially those that deal with, of all things, literary criticism.
This is one of them.
Can't say authoritatively if it has anything to do with 'real Zen ' since I'm not, to my chagrin, the living Buddha, and apparently not one Zen master in a hundred claims to be 'enlightened' these days, at least not among the second generation bumper crop of American and European Zen masters-- A source of relief if you've ever read their vapid and banal pronouncements on life, death and the meaning of the universe.
Guess they just don't make 'em like they used to in ancient China.
Go sit.
Nevertheless, Zen appealed to the young Western intelligensia via the writings of Suzuki, Watts and company. It's almost a religion tailor made for dashing bookworms (Is this a koan?)
Here, R.H. Blyth gives the reader a, as Jung would say, 'mythological Zen' that perhaps never was, but should have been, and he does so in an amazing book on English Lit.
So what's your attitude to life? The heroic as exemplified by Henley's great poem "Invictus"? Or are you a child crying in the night, crying for the light , and with no other language but a cry?
That section alone is worth the price of the book, but it's in the analysis of Hamlet as the archetypal 'zen-less' Western man that R.H really springs to life.
There are about as many critical interpretations of Shakespeare's prince as there are of Jesus, but R.H. has come up with one of the most outstanding.
Hamlet, THE greatest figure in tragedy since Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripedes put ink to papyrus, suffers from 'Words, Words, Words'--for R.H. the clue to his (and our own ) malaise, as contrasted with the 'Zen-filled man ', the one and only Don Quixote de La Mancha !
R.H's study of Quixote--and Cervantes--is brilliant, though he modestly begs the reader's pardon for including the greatest of knights in a work of English, rather than Spanish literature.
Go read.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
I liberally quoted from this book in my bachelor's thesis, a decision that made every professor on my review panel aghast. In this era, an old hoagie like Blyth, who sought poetry and enlightenment anywhere he could find it, is clearly a negative influence on the kids.
I have no idea if Blyth "gets" Zen, and to be frank I don't care if he doesn't. His project -- attempting to prove that everything worthwhile in English literature (as well as all of European culture and the Bible itself) is an expression of Zen is boldly and hopelessly futile. And as such, it's a perfect expression of Zen as he knows it.
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